I'm sitting on my couch in a towel, wide awake, staring at my list of facebook friends online. I know people all around the world and there are only 7...5...6... online right now. I sit and watch the number change as people sign in and out in the middle of my night.
I went to sleep early tonight. 11:00 I was in bed sleeping-- one of those nights where I read in bed and put down the book but don't turn off the lights convinced I'm just resting my eyes. I wake up at 12:30 when Danielle calls while she's waiting for the bus. She's obviously surprised I'm sleeping. She apologizes for waking me but I thank her. I needed to turn off the light anyway right? I go back to sleep and wake up at one. Wide awake. Like it's morning and I have something important to do. I have nothing important to do. I'm all caught up. So I run a really hot bath and try not to think but my mind keeps drifting back to the weekend.
Sunday morning found me at a little church which shall remain nameless. I'm singing "Indescribable, unattainable, you placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name. You are amazing God." The metaphorical record screeches to a halt as the fledgling worship team decides they had a rocky start to the song and it's still new and should they start again perhaps? The song then goes on for about 8 or 9 loops through the chorus. I hadn't been to church in awhile so I just smile and enjoy the singing. Worship is worship after all even if it's an extended cut.
The pastor begins to speak about running the good race. I'm down with that. I like that he points out that we're all running our own race and we can't look at other people and wonder why they're doing it differently than us. Yes, this all I can get behind till he starts giving us directions on running the race. The third step involves speaking in tongues. The pastor is explaining that you should just start making noises with your mouth and the holy spirit will take over and make you speak in a language you don't know. All you have to do is ask. And...make funny noises with your mouth I guess. This is when my heart started pounding really fast and I start having a difficult time breathing. I feel my throat begin to close up a little. I tell Nick I'm feeling stressed and he says I don't need to be but that doesn't change the fact that I am. I tell Nick I can't breathe.
See, most people don't know this but I was raised in a United Pentecostal Church for a good portion of my childhood. Up until about age 12 or so. Nick, who took me to this church because his friend's dad is the pastor didn't know this either. I lasted through the service but when everyone began praying in tongues at once I had to split, get outside, get some air. Nick came with me and had a smoke while I tried to convince my lungs to chill out. "It's not my thing but if they're into it that's fine." Nick says, "I went to church across the street from the pentecostals thinking they were weird and my youth group would laugh at their youth group but they had way cuter girls so sometimes we would hang out with them anyay" He exhales smoke as my breathing returns to normal. I hold on to the railing to steady myself and he goes inside to get my jacket and the other two people in our group.
We go for lunch and copious amounts of drip coffee at Floyd's and chat about church. Everyone seems to be in agreement that it was really odd how the pastor was pushing that everyone should be speaking in a made up language and even gave examples but they're way cooler about it than I am. Everyone has their own views and that's ok with this crowd. I'm impressed by their non-chalance about it (after all, this church as obviously not as controlling as the church I went to as a child) but recognize the fact that it's a pretty major trigger for me because of past experiences.
The next day Nick mentions something about going swimming as a kid and I figure Sunday morning's experience has opened a window for me to talk about my childhood.
"I wasn't allowed to go to swimming lessons--" I tell him. "I had to stay back at the school and read a book because bathing suits were too immodest to wear in public. You know, wouldn't want anyone to see my scrawny eight year old legs. We got to go swimming once a year at camp when there would be time for the girls to swim and time for the boys to swim in segregation and we would cover the entire fenced in swimming area in towels so the opposite gender couldn't see in. I also wasn't allowed to dance when we took it in school. Even square dancing. And square dancing is the least sexy thing in the world. Especially with children. I think I have such a strong vocabulary because I read all the time because there were so many things I couldn't do. Like watch movies in class. I also couldn't wear pants or cut my hair."
In saying this out loud I realized that almost no one really knows this about me because I feel like if I don't own it then it never happened and my life is less weird. This isn't true of course. A lot of people are surprised when they find out I go to church. I guess not a lot of people go to church these days. Nick says it's amazing that I still do after my experience. I don't hold the action of few against everyone. But I never talk about this time in my life within the framework of the church which dictated so much of what I could and couldn't do. I spent a tremendous amount of time there. Sunday morning service, Sunday night service, Wednesday was bible study, Friday was youth night, Saturday was prayer meeting. This was a normal week. Sometimes there were special meetings added on to that schedule. If you missed any you were accused of "backsliding". Sometimes my mom would go to church on Sunday nights by herself and we would stay home with my dad and secretly watch "America's Home Videos" and "The Wonderful World of Disney" in the concrete laundry room, the only place he was allowed to have a t.v. in his own house. How surprising that their relationship eventually came to an end.
I just thought I would write a bit about this because the dialogue about it has been something major that happened this week. I started talking about how repressed I was as a child. Maybe that's part of why I still haven't told my own mother than I'm performing poetry naked on Monday. I'm not sure she'd "get it". Although I think at this point she's accepted the fact that I basically do whatever I want and don't conform to all of her ideology. My mom left the church when I was in grade six. She pulled out a sweatsuit she had just bought and announced that she would be wearing it even though it was pants. She thought this would be a lot more dramatic than it was to us because I just thought it was pajamas. This was around the same time my mom brought out the white leather belt and said she wasn't going to spank us with it anymore. Shortly after was my birthday party. I had friends over for pizza and cake when the phone rang. It was my mom's "friend" from church calling to say she was coming over and wasn't leaving until my mom agreed to come back to the church. We quickly left and went over to my grandparent's place. They were out of town for the week and we all went down into the basement and turned off all the lights and locked the doors in case anyone came looking there. I remember it as one of the weirder scary moments of my childhood, not to mention just slightly embarassing for a 12 year old. My mom also still goes to church but ever since she has somewhat remained on the periphery of any church she attends.
Sometimes I wonder how and if I'm ok. Maybe I'm not, maybe the parts of me I have issue with are all manifestations of the spiritual and physical abuse (the church was very firm about disciplining your children, often to an excess) I underwent as a victim of this tiny church with a little power tripping man with white hair for a pastor, who in trying to save people destroyed many lives. The pastor died a few years ago. He had a heart attack that he probably could have survived but instead of calling the ambulance his wife decided just to pray. I guess God was giving his heavenly defibrillator paddles that day off. After he died he was in the house for a couple days because they were still praying for him to come back from the dead. Ironically, the church was called Revival Tabernacle. Very surreal stuff. And here I sit, on my couch at 2:00 in the morning. Thinking how strange the world is and counting facebook friends. It's back up to 7. In case you were wondering.